From the high class burglary of Thief to the hit-and-run mayhem of Grand Theft Auto, the gaming industry has shown that crime can be a lot of fun when you're not on the receiving end. The Sting is the latest game to focus on the legally-challenged, putting you in the shoes of a sharply dressed gangster by the name of Matt Tucker.
I Have Devised A Cunning Plan
Having just been released from prison, Tucker is back in business within hours, giving you the opportunity to break into eighteen buildings ranging from hotels and cinemas to shops and banks. The focus here is on meticulous planning and preparation rather than action though, and every excursion will begin at your desk. Here you choose a target, select up to three accomplices to take along with you, decide on a getaway car, and hand out vital equipment such as lockpicks, crowbars and drills.
The next step is to devise your plan, guiding Tucker and friends around the target building using a simple point-and-click interface. This is all done in a stop-start manner, so if you wander into the field of view of a guard, think you may have been heard, or waste time picking a lock on something that doesn't contain any loot, you can simply rewind the recording and change the movements of your characters. While it's a novel approach that has more in common with the planning stage of a Rainbow Six mission than a game like Thief, it does mean that there isn't much in the way of suspense. Once you have finished recording your plan you simply sit back and watch the resulting break-in, then return to the editing interface if anything went unexpectedly wrong. Which doesn't happen very often if you were paying attention during the planning.
These Boots Were Made For Walking
It's not all about breaking and entering though. The entire city is modelled in cartoon-like 3D, not just the target buildings. Between burglaries you can wander through the streets, chatting with any suspicious characters you think you may be able to recruit, selling your loot and laundering money at the pawn shop, buying new cars and equipment and casing out potential targets.
Annoyingly though you have to walk from one location to another, and as the city is very large this can be a time consuming affair. There are taxis, but they move fairly slowly and are few and far between at the best of times. Too much of your time is wasted walking from one shop to another, and it can be doubly annoying if you get half way through planning a burglary only to discover that there is a safe you need to break into and you don't have the right tool for the job. Cue a two minute trek to the local tool shop and back. It would have been nice if an option had been included allowing you to jump instantly to a location which you had already visited.
There is also no artificial intelligence; guards always follow predictable pre-programmed routes and only raise the alarm if they see or hear you. It's entirely possible to walk right up behind one without being spotted, and as you can endlessly rewind and re-record your plan it can all get a bit routine at times. Matt Tucker's code of conduct doesn't allow him to harm anyone in the course of a burglary either, so the game boils down to simply avoiding the view-cone of the guards, disabling any alarm systems and picking lots of locks.
The Sting is really more of a puzzle game than anything else, and it works fairly well for what it does. The problem is that there's so much more that it could have done, and the whole thing lacks any kind of tension or excitement because of the way the planning system works. The endless back-tracking and aimless wandering around the labyrinthine city only serves to slow things down still further, making the game decidely plodding.
If you have the patience and methodical mindset to put up with this slow pace then you might enjoy the game, but personally I found that it's charm wore off fairly quickly.